The forgotten anniversary

The shameful American neglect of the Darwin bicentennial.

Yesterday, February 12, was also the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin. 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of his masterwork, The Origin of Species.


As you would jolly well expect, Britain has wholehearted celebrations of its greatest biologist: possibly its greatest scientist, certainly its nicest great one. The party is centred on the Natural History Museum in London, but extends to a week-long festival in July in Darwin’s alma mater Cambridge, and dozens of events around the country. The BBC has wall-to-wall Darwin programming. What about the USA?

The national museum of science, the Smithsonian, marked the central discovery of biology yesterday with one three-hour symposium on Darwin and his “influential” book. You can find seminars and lecture series at half-a-dozen universities, including UCLA. Google did one of its clever special logos for its search page. The idea of a simple commemorative postage stamp was too hot for the US Postal Service.

There is an annual Darwin Day, hijacked by militant atheists. There was an “Evolutionpalooza” in San Francisco

where 100 guests of the local atheist club ate birthday cake and heard the Charles Darwin Backup Singers belt out “The Twelve Ages of Evolution”.

This is exactly the sort of nonsense that the pacific Darwin feared when he’d worked out his culturally explosive theory in the years following the Beagle voyage, and held him back from publishing for 20 years.

Update – same day

Virginia GOP Chairman Jeff Frederick celebrates the anniversaries in his own way. (h/t Steve Benen)

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web